ESPN– Hall of Fame center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar elaborated on his fractured relationship with the Los Angeles Lakers, saying Thursday he’s been mistreated and the franchise no longer appreciates him.
During an in-studio interview with ESPN’s “Mike & Mike in the Morning,” Abdul-Jabbar explained and then expanded on his comments made to The Sporting News this week in which he said he felt “slighted” that the Lakers have not erected a statue of him outside Staples Center.
Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar joins Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic to discuss his new film, “On The Shoulders of Giants,” on his relationship with the Lakers, the NBA playoffs, college basketball and much more.
“It’s about a whole lot of smaller incidents that as they pile up on you, you get the feeling that you don’t mean anything to them,” Abdul-Jabbar said Thursday. A day earlier, he voiced his complaints through a serious of tweets on his Twitter account. “I think in my tweets I said, ‘What am I, chopped liver?’ It’s frustrating.
“For example, I had to take a cut in salary,” said the six-time world champion, who over the past several years worked in many capacities with the Lakers, including as an assistant coach and consultant.
“At the same time they tell me I had to take a cut in salary they’re paying the [head] coach $10 million-$12 million a year,” he continued. “You wonder how much you count when they tell you stuff like that. We were flying on a plane back from Orlando two years ago [after the NBA Finals] and they put me in a tiny little seat that I couldn’t be comfortable in and there were empty seats up there where coaches sat, which is where I usually flew with the team. It was little things like that, just little things that started to wear on me and make me feel like I wasn’t appreciated and I certainly wasn’t being treated like family.”
Abdul-Jabbar said he didn’t voice his frustrations about the way he felt he was treated at the time and only recently decided he should make his feelings public.
“My tendency is to grin and bear it because I figured there must be something happening that I don’t understand and this is being done out of necessity,” said Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time scoring leader. “Once I get the idea that that wasn’t the case and it wasn’t, I figured maybe it was time for me to speak out. I’ve never been this vocal about anything. I’ve always tried to stay out of the fray and not be an object of controversy. It doesn’t suit me, but something needed to be said.”
For more news, notes and analysis of the Lakers, check out the Land O’ Lakers blog from the Kamenetzky Brothers. Blog
Initially, Abdul-Jabbar’s complaints about the Lakers stemmed from the fact he does not have a statue in front of Staples Center. The five statues outside the arena recognize Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Chick Hearn, Wayne Gretzky and Oscar De La Hoya.
“I don’t understand [it]. It’s either an oversight or they’re taking me for granted,” Abdul-Jabbar told The Sporting News in a recent interview. “I’m not going to try to read people’s minds, but it doesn’t make me happy. It’s definitely a slight. I feel slighted.”
Abdul-Jabbar again voiced his frustration on the matter on “Mike & Mike in the Morning,” adding he wasn’t trying to disparage those who were recognized with a statue before him. Posted on Johnson’s Twitter feed on Thursday was this tweet: “@kaj33 deserves and has earned a statue, even before me.”
“At one point (AEG president and CEO and Lakers director) Tim Leiweke told me, ‘Hey, your statue is next,'” Abdul-Jabbar said. “Chick Hearn died unexpectedly and they wanted to honor him. I didn’t have any problem with that. Chick has been with the team since 1960 and is part and parcel of what the Lakers are all about. I don’t have any problem with any of the people who got their statues up there, they absolutely earned it. I just kept dealing with me being put on the backburner when it didn’t seem I was even on the stove at that point.”
A source within the Lakers organization said, in response to Abdul-Jabbar’s claim, the team notified him months ago they were going to erect a statue for him next season.
“I don’t get what he is doing,” the source said to ESPNLosAngeles.com.
The relationship between the Lakers and Abdul-Jabbar has been uneasy seemingly since the six-time NBA MVP retired in 1989. While former players such as Johnson have been given a stake in the team, front-office positions and head-coaching opportunities, Abdul-Jabbar said he didn’t receive much help from the team after he retired.
“When you look at what (owner Jerry Buss) did for Earvin and what he did for me, big disparity there,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “I just think that it’s a mindset that’s taken over in the organization that I’m of minimal value to the organization and they’re doing other things. …They just don’t seem to want to include me in the way they have included other people.”
Although Abdul-Jabbar has been a special assistant coach for the Lakers the past six seasons, he said the team didn’t help him when he initially expressed interest in becoming a coach. Before being hired as a special assistant for the Lakers in 2005, Abdul-Jabbar worked as an assistant for the Los Angeles Clippers and the Seattle SuperSonics, was a head coach for the Oklahoma Storm of the United States Basketball League in 2002 and worked as a scout for the New York Knicks.
“When I first announced that I had aspirations to be a coach, I got no help from them,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “There have been other incidents, little things, but there’s the story of the straw that broke the camel’s back. When you keep seeing it again and again it kind of poisons the relationship.”
While the relationship is far from being mended, Abdul-Jabbar said he believes it can be fixed in time and has already talked to the Lakers about patching things up.
“The relationship absolutely can be repaired,” he said. “I got a call from Laker management, from Linda Rambis, saying that they’re going to take care of it. So things will absolutely work themselves out. The poor communication has gone both ways at times and that makes things very difficult.”
Kareem needs to chill the hell out here with all this statue talk. First of all, anyone who demands a statue of themselves is a self -centered idiot. Secondly, the Lakers just got swept with Odom and Bynum getting ejected because of dirty play and lack of poise. The Lakers organization has higher priorities than making a life-size cement ornament of you doing your infamous “Sky Hook” to display in front of the Staples Center right now. I understand that he is a hall of fame Laker and I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve a statue but his timing couldn’t be worse.
The other thing that makes him look foolish is to go public on Mike and Mike and bad mouth the Laker organization. There are 5 statues outside of Staples Center right now; Magic Johnson (best in Lakers history), Jerry West (the face of the NBA), Chick Hearn (Laker broadcaster who passed away), Wayne Gretzky (NHL legend), and Oscar De La Hoya (Boxing great). The point I am trying to make is that they aren’t erecting statues everywhere in front of The Staples Center. The CEO and Lakers Director, Tim Leiweke promised him a statue, but said it was just a matter of time. Kareem knows he is going to get a statue but is whining because he wants it immediately. You need to be patient and cut it out with the going public pity party and you will get your stupid statue. Kareem went from “winning” to “whining” and has lost a lot of respect in doing so.
Sidenote- I wonder if the Lakers organization is just waiting for Magic Johnson’s statue to crumble from HIV/AIDS before giving Kareem his statue.